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Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet
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Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Lydia Millet

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286639,411 (3.62)20
Member:JeffV
Title:Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
Authors:Lydia Millet
Info:Mariner Books (2006), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:**
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Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet (2005)

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Showing 5 of 5
The premise of the book -- that which got me interested in the first place -- is that Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, and Leo Szilard had their post-test Manhattan Project selves suddenly reincarnated in the early 21st century. Millet seems to parlay the theme as a vehicle to spout her own views on what really happened at the end of WW2 (and the theory is certainly plausible) as well as a desire to curb current and future nuclear proliferation. A noble concept to be sure, but the execution wasn't all that compelling.

In a bizarre turn of events, the three scientists become godheads for a hippy-like cult of...right wing nutjobs! Millet never seems to know what to do once she establishes this sudden time shift bringing long-dead scientists into the hear and now. The government sort of would like to have them back, but they have issues with acknowledging them. The nutjobs embrace them, but the lunatic fringe is never a vehicle for change. Millet doesn't seem to know how to end this mess she created...so she brings in the Whooping Cranes. Okay...

If you like flowery prose and are interested in some facts regarding our atomic history, you might find enough here to keep you interested. To me, the story was aimless, the climax absurd, and the story-telling on the droll side. ( )
1 vote JeffV | Jul 17, 2011 |
Largely unsung. Not only did I love reading it (until the very end), but I also found the title resoundingly beautiful. -- Helen Schulman, "The Best Novels You've Never Read," New York Magazine
  MightyLeaf | May 25, 2010 |
On the day of the Trinity nuclear bomb, July 16, 1945, test Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard and Enrico Fermi go to sleep only to wake in the year 2003. They have dropped not only into a strange and unsettling future, but also into the troubled emotional life of Ann, a reserved and unassuming young librarian. This complex and haunting book is in itself rather unsettling as it jumps from various points of view, drops devastating tidbits of information regarding nuclear testing and its consequences and generally makes the reader think. It is provocative in the way it examines relationships, loyalty, responsibility, adoration and obsession. As the news of the return of the three scientists, who are now fully engaged in a campaign to stop nuclear proliferation and work to not only prove they actually exist (re-exist?) but to persuade the United Nations to encourage world peace, they begin to attract a huge and often suspect following. The ending where a huge flock of (thought to be almost extinct) cranes carries off the two remaining scientists after Szilard had been assassinated, is both beautiful and total absurd. This is not an easy book, but it will probably stick in my memory as very unusual. ( )
1 vote stonelaura | Feb 3, 2008 |
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard are transported to Santa Fe in 2000 immediately after the Trinity testing at Los Alamos. With Ann, a librarian, her husband Ben, a gardener, and Larry, a very rich countercultural layabout and his colorful friends, they set off in a trailer on a quest to convince the world of the evils of nuclear weapons.
The story culminates at the Washington National Monument, where Oppie, Fermi and Szilard are carried off by cranes (the ones made by the girl in Hiroshima?). It's a farce full of librarian jokes, and big swabs at the fundamentalist Christian right. She does, however, treat the scientists with respect,
honoring their legacies both good and evil. Ann is prone to philosophical ponderings—solitude, responsibility, existential questions. She ends up in a smaller town than Santa Fe, cataloging images for the Very Large Array. The author's outrage at how the bomb has shifted the whole moral tone is strongly and effectively conveyed. She interrupts the text in places with statistics on bomb tests, degradations to the environment. However, perhaps it is a little overwritten--it's 500 pages and could easily lose 100 of them. ( )
  deckla | Oct 8, 2007 |
What would happen if Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, the primary physicists from the Manhattan Project returned to contemporary America to discover the repercussions of their creation--the atomic bomb? The author doesn’t delve into the logistics of their resurrections, as inevitably it doesn’t really matter. What’s interesting is the idea of them having to face what they’ve done, the emotions they go through, the effects of nuclear testing on innocent civilians and how nuclear weapons have changed the world.

A librarian from New Mexico finds Oppenheimer and Fermi, eventually taking them into her home despite her husband’s concerns for her state of mind. They eventually hook up with Szilard as well and travel to Los Alamos and Hiroshima where they discover the tragedies of the legacy they left. Along the way, they join a disarmament movement, run into religious fanatics and face army surveillance. The scientists come to life and you become enamored with all their quirks and nuances as they encounter modern society. The beauty of this book is Millet’s poetic writing style. Countless times, I found myself rereading a paragraph over and over just to try to soak in all the words.

While this book is in the Sci-Fi section I would consider it more of a dramatic, yet comedic, novel that weaves in much of the history on the consequences of the development of the atomic bomb.
Reviewed by: Betsy
  RavenousReaders | Jun 24, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
Other than her apparent ability to conjure controversial historical figures from the beyond, Anne is an American Everywoman: she has a good job as a suburban librarian, a cute house, and a sexy husband who adores her and is eager to start a family; her grass seems fairly green. But instead of stagnating in her small town contentment, Anne persists in viewing the world as a threatening dystopia and can’t help but search around for something more largely meaningful to fill her days.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031035, Paperback)

Oppenheimer's first full day at the motel was devoted to television. He located the remote on the bedside table, where it sat beside the enigmatic telephone with its sheet of intricate numeric instructions, and eventually by pressing the button marked power discovered its function. -from OH PURE AND RADIANT HEART

In Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, the three dead geniuses who invented the atomic bomb-Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi-mysteriously appear in Sante Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, nearly sixty years after they watched history's first mushroom cloud rise over the New Mexico desert in 1945. One by one, they are discovered by a shy librarian, who takes them in and devotes herself to them.

Faced with the evidence of their nuclear legacy, the scientists embark on a global disarmament campaign that takes them from Hiroshima to Nevada to the United Nations. Along the way, they acquire a billionaire pothead benefactor and a growing convoy of RVs carrying groupies, drifters, activists, former Deadheads, New Age freeloaders, and religious fanatics.

In this heroically mischievous, sweeping tour de force, Lydia Millet brings us an apocalyptic fable that marries the personal to the political, confronts the longing for immortality with the desire for redemption, and evokes both the beauty and the tragedy of the nuclear sublime.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Oh Pure and Radiant Heart imagines a world in which the three geniuses who were key to the invention of the atom bomb - physicists J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard - are displaced to contemporary America at the moment history's first mushroom cloud rises over the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945." "When Oppenheimer, Fermi, and Szilard appear in Santa Fe in 2003, Ann, a reference librarian, and her doting gardener husband, Ben, take them in. With the long-dead scientists for houseguests, Ann and Ben are swept up in a quixotic and calamitous quest that takes them from Ground Zero in Hiroshima to the Nevada Test Site to the United Nations on a ramshackle pilgrimage for nuclear disarmament. As the scientists, faced with the evidence of their nuclear legacy, cross the United States - bankrolled by an earnest, pot-smoking Tokyo millionaire - they attract a growing convoy of RVs carrying groupies, drifters, activists, former Deadheads, New Age freeloaders, and religious fanatics who believe Oppenheimer is the Second Coming. Meanwhile Ann and Ben fight to save their marriage, gravely threatened by her obsessive devotion to the ghostly men of the Manhattan Project."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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